Why Pope Celestine V wasn't murdered and why Stephen le Clerk probably wished he had been
Turning to medieval violence, we have two items to share:
Medieval Hermit Pope Not Murdered, as Believed
Discovery.com reports that Italian researchers have debunked the theory that Pope Celestine V was killed by a nail to the head. They explain that a half-inch hole that can be seen in the remains of his skull was made long after he died, probably during one of his reburials.
Pope Celestine was a hermit monk who accepted the papacy in 1294 at age 85, but then months later resigned. It was believed that his successor, Pope Boniface VIII, had him murdered.
Tor Vergata of the University of Rome explained, “We can’t establish the real cause of death. A previous research carried test for heavy metal poisoning with negative results.”
The researchers have also reconstruct Celestine’s face in the form of a silver mask. Click here to read the article from Discovery.com
See also The Five Worst Popes of the Middle Ages
Husband Castrates Wife's Lover, Then Sues (Medieval Style!)
Katherine O'Meara, writing in The Prodigal Ex Pat
, tells us about a court case from Ireland in the year 1307. She came across the court case while her writing her thesis - it involves John Don (Dunne) of Youghal, Cork, his wife Basilia, and her lover Stephen le Clerk. I won't give it away, for it is a good read, but now I know what 'abciderunt ejus testiculos' means and that I should never trust a taverner!
You can read the post here
What's new about the Vikings
Several articles have recently appeared online that talk about the Vikings:
Unearthing Viking jewellery
Jane Kershaw from University College London has recently published her book on Viking Identities: Scandinavian Jewellery in England. In a post on the Oxford University Press blog, she writes about how over 500 examples of Viking jewellery have been discovered in England. These brooches and pendants worn by women are contributing much to our understanding of the Norse presence in Anglo-Saxon England.
Kershaw writes, "Although Anglo-Saxon women also wore brooches, they were of a very different style to those favoured by Scandinavian women, so it’s clear that the new jewellery finds represent a distinctly ‘foreign’ dress element. The jewellery being unearthed in England is strikingly similar to that found in Scandinavia, particularly its southern regions: there are disc, trefoil, lozenge, oval, and bird shaped brooches decorated with animals and plants from the Scandinavian art styles of Borre, Jellinge, Mammen and Urnes. Encountering women on a walk around tenth-century Norfolk, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in Denmark."
Click here to read her blog post
Viking hoard discovered in Denmark
Karen Schousboe details in Medieval Histories how 162 coins dating from the late tenth century have been discovered in northern Denmark. One of the most interesting finds in this hoard is over fifty coins minted by King Harold Bluetooth (958 – 987).
Schousboe writes, "The coins are believed to reflect the conversion of the king in 963 as it is witnessed on the Great Jelling Stone, according to which the king claims to have “ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.” Obviously the coins were meant as part of the king’s effort to market his new religion."
Click here to read the full article from Medieval Histories
The Vengeance of Ivarr the Boneless
The Smithsonian blog Past Imperfect reminds us that besides being traders and settlers, the Vikings also enjoyed "gory ritual killings". They detail the several recorded instances of the blood eagle ritual, which is described this way:
First the intended victim would be restrained, face down; next, the shape of an eagle with outstretched wings would be cut into his back. After that, his ribs would be hacked from his spine with an ax, one by one, and the bones and skin on both sides pulled outward to create a pair of “wings” from the man’s back. The victim, it is said, would still be alive at this point to experience the agony of what Turner terms “saline stimulant” — having salt rubbed, quite literally, into his vast wound. After that, his exposed lungs would be pulled out of his body and spread over his “wings,” offering witnesses the sight of a final bird-like “fluttering” as he died.
Click here to read the full article from the Smithsonian
Meanwhile, author Marcus Sedgwick believes that school children don't get to learn enough about the Vikings and Norse mythology. He tells The Big Issue, "“As alluring at the Greek Myths are, I’ve always argued that we ought to pay as much if not more attention to another set of myths, those of the Vikings, since they are much more directly our heritage. Yes, we take the names of our days from the Norse Gods, and most people can tell you a little about Thor, but that’s probably about it.”
Click here to read the full article from The Big Issue
Finally, check out Searching for the Vikings on the Isle of Man
Why the soldiers of the First World War should have looked more like medieval knights
Michael Vlahos offers a fascinating article
in The Atlantic
about how "hundreds of thousands of lives" in World War I could have been saved if soldiers wore helmets and body armor just as medieval knights did hundreds of years earlier.
He writes, "medieval armorers and men-at-arms knew a secret that would have spared perhaps 30 percent of those who died in battle. We have the evidence right at the Metropolitan Museum itself."
For example, when helmets were introduced (two years into the war) the British and French made them in a way that wasn't very effective at protecting the head and neck. Meanwhile, the Germans based their design on the medieval Salade (or Sallet) helmet, which was much better preventing injuries or deaths.
Bashford Dean, an expert on medieval armor at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, even designed a battle harness that would offered strong protection against shrapnel from exploded bombs and even bullets from pistols, but the American army never made use of it when they entered the First World War.
You can read more at Could Body Armor Have Saved Millions in World War I?
Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the story of King Arthur in Oxford, historian finds
The story of King Arthur and the Round Table became a national myth thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brittaniae – the History of the Kings of Britain. New research has unveiled that this work was written in Oxford.
Helen Fulton, professor of medieval literature at York University has found evidence that Geoffrey was in the English city from between 1129 and 1151, the period when he wrote the legendary account. She tells The Oxford Times
, "Geoffrey can certainly be traced to Oxford between 1129 and 1151 because his name appears as a witness on a number of charters – grants of land normally awarded by the king to a particular priory.
“One was the foundation charter for Osney Priory and he had a close connection with the canons of St George in Oxford. His life of Merlin was dedicated to one of the canons of St George.”
Sarah Peverley, senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool, added “Scholars were already aware that Geoffrey spent a great deal of time at Oxford, studying and teaching there, but the new attention given to documentary evidence linking him to the city is fantastic; it will help us to re-evaluate his social milieu and the cultural influences at work on him as he was composing the Historia.
“Though the British fascination with Arthur dates back much further than Geoffrey’s Latin chronicle, Geoffrey is ultimately responsible for the enduring popularity of King Arthur’s story today. He took stories of Arthur’s deeds and achievements from oral culture and brief references to him in earlier works, such as the Historia Brittonum, and invented a golden Arthurian age in the British past.
“His narrative presents history as it should have been, not as it really was. The chronicle’s influence was far-reaching in the Middle Ages, and the Arthurian tales that Geoffrey inspired went onto influence Arthuriana in every subsequent age.
“King Arthur’s appeal is timeless because he’s a touchstone for greatness: he answers society’s desire for strong and just leadership."
Click here to read the article about the discovery from The Oxford Times
Minaret of Aleppo's Umayyad Mosque destroyed
The minaret of Aleppo's historic Umayyad mosque has been destroyed, with video showing the famous structure in ruins. The Syrian government and opposition forces are blaming each other for the destruction. In a video released by opposition forces, one man claims that "tanks began firing in the direction of the minaret until it was destroyed."
The minaret was originally built in the eighth century, and rebuilt in the 13th century. The Umayyad mosque has been the scene of heavy fighting between Syrian government soldiers and opposition fighters over recent months, which has left the mosque damaged and looted.